Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Nothin' but Time!!

Time was not on my side today. Perhaps it was the time I lost when my workshop materials scattered across the school parking lot on my way into the workshop. Or perhaps it was the time I gained for reflection when I had a flat tire on the way home. Either way - it just wasn't working for me!!

As I reflected on today's workshop with my new found time, I thought about the Compare & Contrast strategies we worked through from Harvey Silver and Richard Strong.
Participant reflections included ideas about how it would deepen student understanding of the content, would give students a "voice" in their learning, and how the strategy would enhance the essays calling for compare/contrast that so often appear on NYS assessments. BUT it would take time to do the activity the way it was modeled. Since it was hot and dinnertime, my mind began to wander a bit and I started to think about the time I might have saved today had I (1) paid attention to the dashboard gauge indicating that my tire pressure was low and done something about it and (2) paid attention to where exactly on Route 20 I was when I got the flat so that the tow truck driver could locate me a bit faster.

How many times have we as educators had a flat tire? The lesson we so carefully planned and prepped for that fell flat on it's face or the writing assignment we had high expectations for that instead caused us to wonder what class we had been teaching the past 3 weeks. Could we have avoided the flat tire by paying attention to dashboard lights and the formative assessments we had been giving along the way that cried out for us to "re-teach" something? If we paid attention to the details like scaffolding instruction or going deep before going wide - would we have gotten better results?

I know, I know: the tests! Time and tests are to education as death and taxes are to the rest of our lives. They are the elephants in the room - one we fear we have too much of and the other not quite enough. Where can we find a balance? Taking a lesson from Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! I propose that we can take the time to scaffold our instruction, practice writing and re-writing, and deconstruct writing tasks so that our students can do them well. And I believe that our students will still perform on the assessments before them.

I agree with Francis Bacon who said "To choose time is to save time." If we choose to take the time teach writing, really teach writing, we will save the time we previously spent fixing flat tires. What have we got to lose? Time?


Melodee said...

I totally agree with you that if we take the time to scaffold our instruction, break down the tasks, and give children time to discuss their thinking with one another they will perform well on the state tests. Too often we are in a hurry to cover material. I still believe quality is better than quantity. When you take the time to model first, in the long run you are much better off. The quality of the product becomes so much better. So much of Kelly Gallagher's, Stephanie Harvey's and Anne Goudvis' work reflects this.

shirley said...

Some thoughts...Time to do it right! Time to write. Time to use what we know of teaching the writing process. Time to look at writing from the student writer's viewpoint so that what we teach is understood, useable, and produces quality writing. Does this mean looking at writing in a different way? How do we take the writing process and demystify and simplify it? A heady task, but one well worth our time so that we can do it right!

Jennifer B. said...

A blog after my own heart! It's all about the data! I think you've gracefully eluded a emantics debate by giving a real-life example of how formative assessment can have a dramatic impact on teaching and learning (or a car's engine). I hope today goes as well as yesterday!